Being asked to describe yourself is a very common interview question.
What is more, it’s a question that usually comes at the beginning of an interview.
The hiring manager may ask something like, “How would you describe yourself?”
Or you might get a question such as “Describe yourself in three words,” or “What five words best describe you?”
You get the idea.
Basically, the interviewer is looking for words that describe your personality, your work style, and how you work with others.
You’ll want to start your interview off right by nailing this question.
In this article, we’ll talk about adjectives you should use to describe yourself, words you should avoid, and how to answer this interview question (with lots of examples).
In this video, we take a deep dive into how to use 5 words to describe yourself in an interview (or 3 words to describe yourself if that is what your interviewer requests).
HINT: It's more than simply listing great words about yourself.
Keep on reading and we'll share some great words to describe yourself in an interview.
More importantly, you’ll see some sample answers to back those words up.
Below are some good, bad, and overused words to describe yourself.
If you just came here looking for some keywords to use in an interview, this is for you.
If your goal is to absolutely blow someone away in an interview, these keywords alone won't get you far.
What is more important than the keywords?
The story and supporting evidence that you can provide.
Keep reading and we'll show you exactly how to do this.
Let’s say you can think of a handful of solid adjectives to describe yourself on the spot.
That's great! You're halfway there.
But you want to avoid simply listing descriptive words.
Rather, give a short story to support your claim.
Below is a list of example answers to the interview question, "Can you describe yourself in 5 words?"
In short, what you want to do is offer one of the descriptive words and then add a short (true) story to back it up.
Diligent / Loyal / Reliable
I am always the first person my friends call because they know I am always there for them. Night or day, I make sure to take care of the people in my life. I put the same effort into making sure my work is done correctly, and I am always available to help my team members.
Creative / Innovative / Visionary
I love trying new things, creating new methods, and introducing new ideas. In my previous job, I was responsible for selling waterproof phones. One day, I brought in a clear container filled with water to demo the waterproof phones. We made underwater videos and the phone still worked. Once my manager found out, he made this a mandatory practice for all 150 locations.
Motivated / Ambitious / Leader
I tend to be very driven in my approach to life and work. Throughout college, I was active in three clubs, worked full time, and still managed to graduate at the top of my class. As the oldest sibling, I have always been somewhat of a leader. My brothers and sisters constantly look up to me for advice and I try to be the person others would be confident to follow.
Honest / Ethical / Conscientious
Ever since I was a little kid, I have tried to practice honesty. I remember one time I found six Disneyland tickets and $200 cash in an envelope. I turned the envelope into the store where I found it. My honesty paid off when no one came to claim it and I was able to keep the content.
Friendly / Personable / Extrovert
I've always enjoyed meeting new people and it comes naturally to me to maintain a lot of relationships. I'm your typical extrovert, which has really helped me in my career. My natural networking abilities have enabled me to excel in sales roles such as this one.
As you consider examples to use, it is helpful to think of relevant explanations that also align with the job you are interviewing for.
In other words, be strategic.
There may be 50 applicable words you can use to tell someone about yourself.
However, pick the ones that will be valued most for the job position you are interviewing for.
Tell them how these words apply to your life and provide a true-life example that backs it up.
This may be difficult for those who are shy and have problems opening up, but it really is a great life skill.
Don’t be afraid to think about your answer ahead of time so you can let your character shine in the best possible light.
There are obvious words you want to avoid describing yourself with in an interview (inaccurate, perpetually late, lazy...you get the idea!)
But there are also words that may seem like they'd be good to use, but they really aren't.
Avoid generic verbiage and words that can be construed as negative when you describe yourself.
Some bad words to describe yourself that lack substance include:
- extensive experience
Don’t get us wrong; these are positive traits.
They are also very general traits.
That’s why everyone uses them.
While these words might describe you, they could also be assumed in pretty much any candidate. As such, they will come across as boring or trite.
Think of how many people are going to give these basic answers.
Don’t be like them!
Set yourself apart from the masses and provide truthful yet unique character traits that will resonate with the interviewer.
Also, make sure to avoid words that can be perceived as negative such as:
Choose words that can only leave a positive impression.
The goal is to avoid the generic and anything that can come off as negative.
Never, ever, ever say, “I don’t know,” in response to this question!
If you don’t know how to describe yourself, then the interviewer might be wondering what else you don’t know.
In other words, it leaves a bad impression.
What leaves a good impression?
Giving a cool, calm, and confident response.
A well-thought-out response gives the hiring manager the impression that you are the type of person who comes prepared.
And this can only work in your favor.
(Just one reason why it helps to prepare your responses ahead of time!)
The best way to prepare for this question is just that:
If you are able to successfully describe yourself in 5 words, you will come off as a self-aware, confident, and capable candidate.
Nobody knows you better than yourself, so all you have to do is put it into words!
However, if you really need help thinking of words that describe you, consider asking some friends or family members.
If you are at a loss trying to figure out ways to describe yourself, ask the people who know you best.
Simply text, call, or email a few friends and family members and ask them, "What do you think are words that describe me?"
By asking others what words can be used to describe you (and eliminating the not-so-positive words they might use), you will have a great starting place to come up with your more detailed and descriptive answer for the interview.
You can find more interview questions to study in 50 Top Job Interview Questions and Answers.
If you are interested in taking your interview game to the next level, consider hiring an interview coach.
Interview coaches are trained professionals who know what hiring managers want.
Investing in an interview coach can make the difference in landing the job, or coming in second.
Check out our list of the best interview coaching services around.
Good luck with that interview!
You are going to do great. You are ambitious, confident, and resourceful!